12 – Rehabilitation Act of 1973

The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Rights Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

What is Section 504?

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a national law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability. The nondiscrimination requirements of the law apply to employers and organizations that receive financial assistance from any Federal department or agency, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). These organizations and employers include many hospitals, nursing homes, mental health centers and human service programs. Section 504 forbids organizations and employers from excluding or denying individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to receive program benefits and services. It defines the rights of individuals with disabilities to participate in, and have access to, program benefits and services.

Who Is Protected from Discrimination?

Section 504 protects qualified individuals with disabilities. Under this law, individuals with disabilities are defined as persons with a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities. People who have a history of or who are regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities are also covered. Major life activities include caring for one’s self, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, working, performing manual tasks and learning. Some examples of impairments which may substantially limit major life activities, even with the help of medication or aids/devices, are: AIDS, alcoholism, blindness or visual impairment, cancer, deafness or hearing impairment, diabetes, drug addiction, heart disease and mental illness. In addition to meeting the above definition, for purposes of receiving services, education or training, qualified individuals with disabilities are persons who meet normal and essential eligibility requirements.

For purposes of employment, qualified individuals with disabilities are persons who, with reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job for which they have applied or have been hired to perform. Complaints alleging employment discrimination on the basis of disability against a single individual will be referred to the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for processing.

Reasonable accommodation means an employer is required to take reasonable steps to accommodate an individualā€™s disability unless it would cause the employer undue hardship.

Prohibited Discriminatory Acts in Health Care and Human Services Settings

Section 504 prohibitions against discrimination apply to service availability, accessibility, delivery, employment and the administrative activities and responsibilities of organizations receiving Federal financial assistance. A recipient of Federal financial assistance may not, on the basis of disability:

These and other prohibitions against discrimination based on disability can be found in the DHHS Section 504 regulation at 45 CFR Part 84.

Section 503

Section 503 requires affirmative action and prohibits employment discrimination by Federal government contractors and subcontractors with contracts of more than $10,000.

For more information on section 503, contact:

Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
U.S. Department of Labor

200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Room C-3325
Washington, D.C. 20210

(202) 693-0106 (voice/relay)

Enforcement of Section 504

Section 504 states that “no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under” any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service.

Each Federal agency has its own set of section 504 regulations that apply to its own programs. Agencies that provide Federal financial assistance also have section 504 regulations covering entities that receive Federal aid. Requirements common to these regulations include reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities; program accessibility; effective communication with people who have hearing or vision disabilities; and accessible new construction and alterations. Each agency is responsible for enforcing its own regulations. Section 504 may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with a Federal agency or to receive a “right-to-sue” letter before going to court.

For information on how to file 504 complaints with the appropriate agency, contact:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Disability Rights Section ā€“ NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530
www.ada.gov
(800) 514-0301 (voice)
(800) 514-0383 (TTY)

Section 508

Section 508 establishes requirements for electronic and information technology developed, maintained, procured or used by the Federal government. Section 508 requires Federal electronic and information technology to be accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public.

An accessible information technology system is one that can be operated in a variety of ways and does not rely on a single sense or ability of the user. For example, a system that provides output only in visual format may not be accessible to people with visual impairments and a system that provides output only in audio format may not be accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Some individuals with disabilities may need accessibility-related software or peripheral devices in order to use systems that comply with Section 508.

For more information on section 508, contact:

U.S. General Services Administration
Center for IT Accommodation (CITA)
1800 F Street, N.W.
Room 1234, MC:MKC
Washington, DC 20405-0001
www.gsa.gov/section508
(202) 501-4906 (voice)
(202) 501-2010 (TTY)

U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
1331 F Street, N.W., Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20004-1111
www.access-board.gov
800-872-2253 (voice)
800-993-2822 (TTY)

For information on how to file a complaint of discrimination, or to obtain information of a civil rights nature, contact the Office for Civil Rights.

Hotlines: 1-800-368-1019 (Voice) 1-800-537-7697 (TDD)

E-mail: ocrmail@hhs.gov Website: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr

Your Rights Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

(H-8/June 2000 ā€“ revised June 2006 – English)